The Bayou District Foundation's plan is to emulate the success of East Lake at the old St Bernard Housing Project, using City Park's public golf courses in place of the private East Lake Golf Club and the public Charlie Yates Golf Club. It would cost almost as much to play at the proposed new City Park Golf Course as it would at the private East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
To make sense of how a simple $21 million renovation of the existing golf courses in City Park morphed into a plan for a private non-profit foundation to take ownership of the public land through a 90-year lease and build a $46 million golf complex instead, one must start at the beginning, with Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club.
In 1993, developer Tom Cousins purchased the derelict East Lake Golf Club adjacent to the notorious East Lake Meadows housing project in Atlanta for $4.5 million, and invested $25 million into its renovation, with Rees Jones as the course architect.
In 1995, Cousins formed the East Lake Community Foundation (ELCF, now called East Lake Foundation) to partner with the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) on the redevelopment of the adjoining housing project into the mixed-income "Villages at East Lake" with the aid of a $33.5 million HUD HOPE VI grant, a public-private partnership similar to what happened here in New Orleans with the St Thomas Housing Project redevelopment in the late 1990's. The ELCF then went on to incorporate a charter school, a YMCA, a pre-school, and a First Tee program for young golfers, held at the Rees Jones designed Charlie Yates Golf Course, a public par 58, 18-hole course opened in 1998, and built within the East Lake community next door to the private East Lake Golf Club.
As of March, 2009, green fees at the Charlie Yates Golf Club were $32 (walking) and $40 (riding) on weekends and $27 (walking) and $35 (riding) on weekdays, with a variety of discounts, including for East Lake residents. Carts are $12 for 18 holes and $9 for 9 holes. There is a Golf Shop and Driving Range but no clubhouse.
The East Lake Golf Club is and always has been a private club; green fees are estimated to be about $165, including cart. In 1998, the PGA started holding the Tour Championship tournament at East Lake Golf Club, and it was made the tournament's permanent home in 2005. Each tournament provided $500,000-$700,000 in funds for the ELCF. Both the course and the clubhouse underwent major renovations in 2008.
Net proceeds from the Charlie Yates Golf Course, the East Lake Golf Club and the PGA Tour’s TOUR Championship held at East Lake Golf Club every year benefit East Lake community programs. The East Lake Golf Club’s founding sponsor companies have contributed more than $20 million to the East Lake Foundation, with additional support provided by foundations, governmental entities and individuals.
The New Orleans version
The Bayou District Foundation's plan is to emulate the success of East Lake at the old St Bernard Housing Project, using City Park's public golf courses in place of the private East Lake Golf Club and the public Charlie Yates Golf Club.
"So the Bayou District Foundation is asking park officials to give up a portion of future revenue in exchange for the foundation's massive front-end investment in three golf courses, two of them of a quality that could lure PGA Tour events to the city. The foundation has proposed taking $500,000 from an expected $1.5 million in yearly golf revenue to finance educational and recreational programs at the St. Bernard complex. The plan's backers say they will assure City Park retains at least $500,000 in golf revenue." (Excerpt from the wecouldbefamous blog, which featured an extensive series of articles in 2008 on disgraced HUD chief Alphonso Jackson and the maze of relationships tying together HUD, HANO, Columbia Residential, the Bayou District Foundation and the redevelopment of New Orleans' housing projects.)
The gist of the plan is also described very succinctly in the St Bernard Tenants Redevelopment Proposal submitted to HANO in October 2007: "The essence of the Bayou District Foundation/Columbia proposal is that the entire community will be constructed around the development of a golf course connected with the PGA Tour. To achieve this, some unspecified party [presumably the Fore!Kids Foundation] would have to take control of the existing public park in the area and convert it to an upscale golfing facility. Since neither Columbia, nor HANO or HUD has the ability to convert this public park, the proposal is at best hypothetical. Further, the construction of this golf course is dependent on raising millions of dollars in donations from private sources, which cannot be relied upon in any objective financial analysis of the proposal. This is key because the community benefits promised in the plan are to be funded by projected future profits from the operation of the golf course."
The Bayou District Foundation, a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization formed in August of 2007, acts as the public face of the complex partnership that includes two established charities, the Fore!Kids Foundation (a New Orleans based non-profit group that was established in 1958), the Wilbur Marvin Foundation (a wing of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation), and the for-profit Columbia Residential (a minority-owned, Atlanta-based mixed income housing developer and manager on various HUD HOPE VI and mixed-finance projects). In March 2007, HANO chose the Fore!Kids Foundation and partner Columbia Residential to redevelop the St Bernard Housing Project. The inclusion of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation brought commercial development experience to the team, which had proposed a conceptual plan for the revitalization of the St. Bernard site that includes affordable rental and for-sale housing units, education, and recreation.
Who's who, and what is their role in the Bayou District plan?
Bayou District Foundation, bayoudistrictfoundation.com, 335 Julia St., NOLA 70130
Role: Charter school system
Created 8/27/2007; Directors: Michael H. Rodrigue, Gerard W. Barousse, Jr. Both are longtime supporters of the Fore!Kids Foundation and businessmen.
Businesses associated with Gerard W. Barousse, Jr include: Monarch Real Estate Advisors, Inc; Monarch Hospitality, LLC; Monarch Real Estate Holdings, LLC; LJBM, Inc; Tonto Hospitality, LLC; Bronco Hospitality, LLC; Barfam Investments, LLC; 402 Partners, LLC; 335 Julia Partners, LLC; 330 Partners, LLC; 821 Partners, LLC; R.C.B. Builders, Inc; BDF Housing, Inc; and St. Bernard Redevelopment, LLC.
Businesses associated with Michael H. Rodrigue include: Rodco Worldwide, Inc; Ciolino Properties, LLC; Rodrigue Investments, LLC; RawBar, Inc; Boston Oysters; Acme Southshore, Inc; Acme Management Group; Half Shell, LLC; Da Metry Store, LLC; Da Northshore, LLC; and Horace, LLC.
The Bayou District Foundation's Board of Directors includes, in addition to Rodrigue and Barousse, venture capitalist and banker Gary N. Solomon, and fellow PGA supporter Brian Cheramie.
St. Bernard Redevelopment, LLC, 1136 Baronne St, NOLA 70130
Role: Received $9 million from HANO for demolition and up to $19 million for public infrastructure work
Created 9/25/2007; Registered Agent is Gerard W. Barousse, Jr. (of Bayou District Foundation) 335 Julia St., NOLA 70130; Manager is Noel Khalil (of Columbia Residential) 1718 Peachtree St, NW, Suite 684, Atlanta, GA 30309; Members include BDF Housing, Inc, whose directors are Michael H. Rodrigue, Gerard W. Barousse, Jr, and whose mailing address is the same as the Bayou District Foundation; and Affordable Housing Partnership, whose address is the same as Columbia Residential.
Fore!Kids Foundation, forekidsfoundation.com, 11005 Lapalco Blvd., Avondale, LA 70094
Role: All golf operations and activities
Columbia Residential, columbiares.com, 1718 Peachtree St, NW, Suite 684, Atlanta, GA 30309
Role: Multi-family housing component
President: Noel Khali
Commercial Properties Development Corporation, cpdcpr.com, 5630 Bankers Ave, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Role: Design, development, leasing & management of the retail section of the St. Bernard neighborhood
An affiliate of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, with the same President, John G Davies
The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, braf.org, 402 N Fourth St, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Role: part of Bayou District Foundation partnership
President: John G Davies
New Orleans City Park
Role: Recreational sports complex and park facilities
Role: YMCA facility and after school and vocational programs
Columbia Citi Residences at Bayou District
Name of the new St Bernard housing development
St Bernard Now, stbernardnow.com
Name of the website set up for former St Bernard Housing residents to apply for new housing
Partners in Charge are listed as:
Gerard W. Barousse, Jr.
Monarch Real Estate (New Orleans, LA)
firstname.lastname@example.org • ph: 504.523.1701 • fax: 504.523.1704
Noel Khalil – Columbia Residential (Atlanta, GA)
email@example.com • ph: 404.419.1421
In printed material from their website, The Bayou District Foundation states that "the majority of the funding for the housing component of the development has been procured via tax credit funding allocation, granted to the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) to bring the redevelopment of the current St. Bernard Housing Community to fruition. Our objective is to raise an additional $25-$30 million through corporate sponsorship, membership and foundation contributions to further support the residential housing development, as well as the educational and community programs envisioned."